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THE AFRICAN DIASPORA

 

 



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Seaman’s Valley Archaeological Site, Jamaica

The Seaman's Valley site is one of the very few known sites in Jamaica in which, for the first time, the Maroons came into open combat with colonial military. The colonial military force was the largest ever sent against the Maroons, yet it suffered total annihilation. The eighteenth century site was not only a battle site, but also, and perhaps more importantly, a Maroon contact zone. (Link)

 Seaman's Valley- Jamaica

Seaman's Valley, was one of the very few battle grounds, on record, where the Maroons came into an open battle or combat with colonial forces. It is recorded that the Maroons completely defeated the colonial forces, the largest ever sent against them in the history of Jamaica. The relationship of the plantation features to the site as a battle ground remain undetermined. Although a plantation in the Seaman's Valley would have been insignificant to the Jamaican economy at the time, contact with the area appears to have been crucial for the Maroons who might have come down once in awhile to raid the area for supplies or even had contacts with supply agents as was reported in contemporary colonial document.

A 1782 map of the Seaman's Valley area, appears to include the five hundred acre land area granted to "Nanny and the Maroons". The Maroons have since the 1739 Peace Treaty settled in the area Seaman's Valley area which they would have raided several times or had contact with prior to the 1734 attack on Nanny Town and the signing of the treaty. In a guerilla warfare face to face confrontation was the last method of combat. But the Maroons chose that method at Seaman's valley. The fact that the Maroons took the risk of open fighting against colonial forces, nowhere else other than Seaman's Valley, suggests the importance of the area for their survival. The cache of arms, ammunition and pharmaceutical and possibly some of the weapons abandoned or buried in the wake of the panic and flight of the colonial forces from the Maroons in the encounter, remains hidden some where in the Seaman's valley area. Burial grounds, possibly of the defeated colonial group command leaders or soldiers, Maroon locally-manufactured arms and other fighting equipment as well as the main combat point in the encounter, have not yet been uncovered. As already mentioned above, the impact of the Maroon successes at Seaman's Valley in 1733, on the morale and aspirations of the colonial forces, accounts for the two-pronged attack on Nanny Town in 1734 and demonstrates why the events related to the site must be more fully investigated, explained and understood. Several questions about Seaman's Valley remain unanswered. Rather new questions are being raised.

Survival of Nanny Town depended on its relations with the Seaman's Valley area during the colonial period and even after emancipation. The spatial and material relationships between Seaman's Valley and Nanny Town sites are examined in order to demonstrate the significance of the longstanding association between them during Maroon struggle, particularly in the mid-eighteenth century. Two types of evidence appear to suggest a symbiosis: the geographical and material culture. While the former demonstrates the power of spatial connectivity between the Maroon settlements, the latter suggests through artifactual material that the flow of goods between Nanny Town and Seaman's Valley was a major factor in Nanny Town's survival as a stronghold.

The location and distribution of Maroon sites in Jamaica, particularly in the Blue Mountains appears to indicate the existence of a special kind network of routes and sites between which they moved back and forth as a strategy to ensure the full advantage of their guerrilla tactics and way of life. The short occupation periods at the settlements in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica and the dearth of artifacts at many of the sites support the unavoidable or compulsory nomadic lifestyle imposed on them by the circumstances of rough terrain, and the constant attack by colonial forces of the time. A network of caves and foot trails which, until recently was still used by wild pig hunters, facilitated their guerrilla warfare and lifestyle.

 Much of the connection between Seaman's Valley and Nanny Town sites (Agorsah 1994) belonged to the last two phases. Colonial military reports of attack had no choice but to use only three clearly defined routes all of which were controlled through the established points along the river basins and provided access to Maroon settlements at the crest of the hills. Stone structures identified at Killdead and Gun Barrel and distribution of identical local ceramic types at these sites and imported European artifacts support colonial reports that indicate that those locations were crucial for the survival of the Maroons. Via the valley of the Rio Grande and the Back Rio Grande, the Maroons were able to connect with Seaman's Valley located at the meeting point of the Rio Grande and Negro Rivers.

Seaman's Valley site was one of the few known places in Jamaica where the Maroons came into face to face combat with colonial military in a battle which featured the largest force ever sent against the Maroons. In that encounter the colonial forces were routed in a total defeat resulting in the abandonment of arms and ammunition and personnel. The material culture from the Seaman's Valley and Nanny Town demonstrate the significance of the longstanding strategic relationship between the two locations during Maroon struggle for freedom and even after peace negotiations were sealed by treaties in the mid-years of the eighteenth century. Seaman's Valley site is, therefore, depicted not only as a unique battle ground with strategic and spatial relationship with Nanny Town in the Blue Mountains but, also, as a special brewing ground for the formation and transformation of Maroon material culture in eastern Jamaica. The total defeat of colonial forces at the site of Seaman's Valley in the late 1720s generated the massive attack and battle against Nanny Town in 1734. What was the impact of Seaman's Valley battle on the settlement of Nanny Town? What was the nature of the cultural and military relationships between the Nanny Town and Seaman's Valley before and after the sack of Nanny Town in 1734? As the material from both sites were being analyzed the question of the effect of Seaman's Valley, and therefore the plantation system, on the formation and transformation of the material culture of Nanny Town site arose and became a major issue of discussion which was thought would contribute to our understanding of the functional adaptation of the Maroons to transformations in ecological conditions during their fight against colonial forces.

The artifacts recovered from Seaman's valley also provide indications of a long period of contact between the two locations. These included both locally-made and imported ceramics, roofing slates, fragments of bricks, glass including wine, alcoholic and medicinal or pharmaceutical bottles, metal scraps and implements, fragments of gun barrel, musket balls of various sizes and weight, nails, and fragments of such other metal objects such as knife and cast iron (three-legged) pot. Also recovered were kaolin (white clay) smoking pipe bowls and stem, glass and stone beads and metal buttons. Seaman's Valley, was one of the very few battle grounds, on record, where the Maroons came into an open battle or combat with colonial forces. It is recorded that the Maroons completely defeated the colonial forces, the largest ever sent against them in the history of Jamaica. The relationship of the plantation features to the site as a battle ground remain undetermined. Although a plantation in the Seaman's Valley would have been insignificant to the Jamaican economy at the time, contact with the area appears to have been crucial for the Maroons who might have come down once in awhile to raid the area for supplies or even had contacts with supply agents as was reported in contemporary colonial document.